The Swedish Police have in collaboration with the Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI) and Uppsala University developed a hate-seeking mechanism to combat hate speech. To help the machine reach its full capacity, fellow Swedes have been urged to feed it with samples of hate speech (so far limited to the Swedish language).
On Hatomat.se, visitors are greeted by a robot who says "I eat hate", "give me some more hate, please", and "thanks for your hate".
"The material will eventually help law enforcement authorities to investigate threats, violations and harassment of groups or individuals in digital environments", FOI explained.
The purpose of the algorithm, dubbed Hatomat ("Hate Automaton" or "Hate-o-mat") and financed by the innovation agency Vinnova, is to automatically detect crimes such as hate speech or inciting ethnic hatred. The ultimate goal is to develop a mechanism that can be used by social media platforms and newsmakers.
"By asking for help from those who are subjected to hateful comments, we hope to collect more training data and thus develop better algorithms", FOI researcher Johan Fernquist said.
However, many Swedes have turned out to be wary of the innovation, expressing fears of censorship, thought police and cracking down on dissenting views. Some went so far as to accuse the police and FOI of "Stasi manners" after East Germany's notorious secret police.
"Crikey. Crikey!!! A Hat-o-mat that is going to 'collect online hate' from the public. This database will eventually be filled with almost every word from the Swedish dictionary if the leftist radical feminists get to call the shots. For them, just about EVERYTHING that they don't like is 'hate'", a user tweeted.
"I believe it's a waste of resources. 'Threats'? Yes, absolutely. Report and follow up. 'Abuses'? Duh, it's the internet. Block, ignore, or just stop using media where everyone can write to you", another one suggested.
"Hate speech is the new 'You have sinned! Repent!' because you violate my fragile worldview", yet another frowned.
"The hat-o-mat threatens free speech by bullying people into silence. The underlying purpose of the hat-o-mat is to silence social criticism and criticism of shady lying politicians and the media. The gap between democracy and dictatorship is shrinking in Sweden", another critical user tweeted.
Many more comments on Twitter and Sweden's most popular forum Flashback have slammed the "hate machine" as "Orwellian", claiming it made online discourse sterile and could potentially be used to silence critics.
Additionally, many questioned the AI's ability to fully understand and appreciate sarcasm, which could potentially lead to more repercussions for innocent people.